O'Connell, Wilkins Win Poles for Saturday's Pirelli World Challenge race at Belle Isle


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Johnny O’Connell will roll off on pole at Belle Isle. (Weber Image)

DETROIT (May 31, 2013) - Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., and Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, will lead their respective classes to green Saturday, after scoring the Motul Pole Awards for Round Six of the Pirelli World Challenge in the Cadillac V-Series Challenge, part of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

O'Connell, the winner of both Belle Isle races last year, captured his second pole this season in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, with a time of 1:33.592 (90.392 mph) around the 2.35-mile street course.

"My qualifying run was really good," O'Connell said. "Based on the few laps we did this morning, my engineer and I made a few changes on the No. 3 CTS-V.R and we went in the right direction. I had a lot of confidence in the car and was able put it on the pole. With just a couple of laps in practice I had to rely on my laps around this track from the past. Some history paid off today."

Heading into Saturday's race, weather may prove to be a wild card, as there is an 80 percent chance of rain in the forecast.

"If it does rain that puts us at a disadvantage to the four-wheel drive Volvos," O'Connell said. "We will have to overcome our grip disadvantage with the motivation of running here in GM's hometown of Detroit to make up some of that difference."

One of the aforementioned Volvos will be that of Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., starting on the outside of row one in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60. Pobst lapped the course in 1:33.863 (90.131 mph).

"It's a very different track, not only because of the new, longer section here, but it looks like they added some new concrete in some portions of the track," Pobst said. "Turn Seven through Turn Nine is new concrete, and that felt pretty low grip to me. I'm very happy we were able to put the K-PAX Volvo into second.

"I was giving it all I had on that last lap. I slowed down to cool the tires off and then put in a good lap. I think that's where we're at today. We're going to start second, in an excellent position. The forecast looks rainy, which could be good for us."

The GT Drivers' Championship leader, James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., will take the green flag on the inside of row two. In his No. 14 GMG/Mobil 1Audi R8, Sofronas turned in a lap of 1:34.372 (89.645 mph).

"This weekend could be a total crap shoot with the rain coming in, so it's going to be about survival," Sofronas said. "The GMG Audi R8 has great balance. So, if we can all keep it clean, and the race stays dry, we can make it to the end in good shape."

O'Connell's teammate, Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., turned a time that put him fourth on the grid. He completed a lap of 1:34.769 (89.269 mph) in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.

Alex Figge, of Denver, completes the top five starting positions for Saturday's Round Six, with a lap of 1:35.190 (88.874 mph), in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60.

In the GTS class, Wilkins, in the No. 38 Kia Motors America Kia Optima, scored the marque's first pole position of 2013, with a time of 1:41.475 (83.370 mph). The strong qualifying lap comes on the heels of Kia's first podium of the season at COTA.

"It's great for Kia," Wilkins said. "It's the first pole of the season and the first pole in a while coming off a strong race at Circuit of The Americas. We're building on the momentum. The Detroit circuit is great. It's a lot of fun. The competition is quick and I knew they were going to bring their A-game. Jack [Baldwin] is super close. He's really strong, as he's leading the championship. We're just trying to be in that fold and gain some points back. Getting a few points for the pole is great and we're looking forward to a good race tomorrow.

"It's a great feeling to get a good time in and get all you can out of the car, and yourself. I thought I gained some good momentum at COTA, where we figured out how to get the car to work well in the second race through tire management. Getting more and more comfortable allows you to push a little bit quicker."

GTS Drivers' Championship leader, Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., will roll off second in class. Driving the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman, Baldwin threw down a lap of 1:41.566 (83.295 mph).

"Any time you qualify in the Pirelli World Challenge you need to step it up," Baldwin said. "Qualifying is especially important here, and we always try to go out there and do the best job we can."

Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., will start Race One of this doubleheader weekend in third, after turning a time of 1:42.218 (82.764 mph) in his No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.

"The Acura does really well at Detroit," Cunningham said. "We got a few fast laps in, but that's about all we had. It's not quite what the top-two guys had, but I think there were problems for some of the cars behind us, so they may not have turned in representative laps. But, we're ready for tomorrow."

Nic Jonsson, of Sweden, backed up his teammate's pole-winning performance in his No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima, turning a 1:42.358 (82.651 mph). With that time, Jonsson will line up to start fourth.

Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich., will start his first of two home races from the fifth position. Martin turned a qualifying lap of 1:42.581 (82.471 mph) in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Grand Sanitation Ford Mustang Boss 302S.

Pirelli World Challenge Round Six is slated for a rolling start Saturday at 10:15 a.m.(EDT). Round Seven of the doubleheader event is scheduled for Sunday at 12:00 p.m.(EDT). All races will be streamed live at www.world-challengetv.com and then aired on the NBC Sports Network June 16 at 5 p.m. (EDT).

More information on the series can be found at www.world-challenge.com or on Twitter @WCRacing.

DETROIT, Mich. - Starting lineup for Saturday's Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS Round Six race, part of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix at Belle Isle Street Course, with position, class, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.

1, GT, (3), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V.R, 1:33.592, 90.392.
2, GT, (6), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60, 1:33.863, 90.131.
3, GT, (14), James Sofronas, Villa Park, Calif., Audi R8 LMS, 1:34.372, 89.645.
4, GT, (8), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V.R, 1:34.769, 89.269.
5, GT, (9), Alex Figge, Denver, Colo., Volvo S60, 1:35.190, 88.874.
6, GT, (12), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Nissan GTR, 1:36.457, 87.707.
7, GT, (24), Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif., Audi R8 LMS, 1:36.604, 87.574.
8, GT, (54), Tim Pappas, Boston, Mass., Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS, 1:37.071, 87.152.
9, GT, (46), Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:37.115, 87.113.

1, GTS, (38), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, Kia Optima, 1:41.475, 83.370.
2, GTS, (73), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 1:41.566, 83.295.
3, GTS, (42), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1:42.218, 82.764.
4, GTS, (36), Nic Jonsson, Sweden, Kia Optima, 1:42.358, 82.651.
5, GTS, (50), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:42.581, 82.471.
6, GTS, (17), Alec Udell, The Woodlands, Texas, Ford Mustang Boss 302R, 1:42.853, 82.253.
7, GTS, (7), Dane Moxlow, Grosse Ile, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:43.058, 82.089.
8, GTS, (20), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:43.291, 81.904.
9, GTS, (10), Lawson Aschenbach, Jupiter, Fla., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:43.925, 81.404.
10, GTS, (29), Harry Curtin, Buffalo, N.Y., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:44.553, 80.915.
11, GTS, (34), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Acura TSX, 1:45.586, 80.124.
12, GTS, (51), Ric Bushey, Virginia Beach, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 1:46.413, 79.501.
13, GTS, (52), Roger Rodas(R), El Salvador, Ford Boss 302S, 1:46.757, 79.245.
14, GTS, (69), Craig Capaldi(R), Richmond, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:46.774, 79.232.
15, GTS, (39), Todd Napieralski, Chelsea, Mich., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:46.851, 79.175.
16, GTS, (96), Brad Adams, New Orleans, La., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 1:46.944, 79.106.
17, GTS, (07), Brian Kleeman, Towson, Md., Nissan 370 Z, 1:47.249, 78.881.
18, GTS, (75), Erik Davis(R), Burbank, Calif., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:48.075, 78.279.
19, GTS, (21), Ardee Toppe, The Woodlands, Texas, Ford Mustang Boss 302, 1:48.801, 77.756.
20, GTS, (61), Jim Taggart(R), Raleigh, N.C., Lotus Exige, 1:49.519, 77.246.
21, GTS, (72), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 1:50.954, 76.247.
22, GTS, (95), Bill Ziegler, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Pontiac Solstice, 2:10.958, 64.600.
23, GTS, (11), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, no time.
24, GTS, (23), Roger Miller, Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Mustang Boss 302S, no time.
25, GTS, (55), Richard Golinello, Tampa, Fla., Ford Mustang 302S, no time.

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